Recognized Canadian artist comes to TRU

Karla Karcioglu, Roving Editor Ω

Roy Henry Vickers shares the story of his struggle with suicide and his decision to continue with life. Ashley Wadhwani/The Omega

Roy Henry Vickers shares the story of his struggle with suicide and his decision to continue with life. Ashley Wadhwani/The Omega

Roy Henry Vickers was this year’s featured guest at TRUSU’s annual Story Teller’s Gala. At the event, he said that the most important things to be learned aren’t in university, but in life.

The fourth annual gala was held in the Campus Activity Centre’s Mountain Room on Feb. 12.

Vickers’ works are recognized across Canada and have been gifted to visiting foreign leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II. Vickers was the recipient of the Order of British Columbia in 1998 and the Order of Canada in 2006.

TRUSU’s Aboriginal representative, Liz Whiting, introduced Vickers as a personal friend, sharing her own story of the first time the two met. She met Vickers as a child with her father and remembered him introducing himself with a hug and telling her that as a friend to her father, he was a friend to her, too.

During the Story Teller’s Gala, Vickers talked about growing up in the small northern BC town of Hazelton, about visiting Vancouver Island and experiencing discrimination for the first time, about trying to learn what it means to be “an Indian,” about contemplating suicide and overcoming addiction, about his life as an artist and much more.

The full room of approximately 60 attendees shared laughs, tears and nods of understanding with the presenter. After the event, Vickers shared more of his thoughts with The Omega.

“I live my life as an artist, but more as a storyteller artist, because life is about stories and stories are where we get our education,” he said.

Vickers described institutional education as an “old, archaic, industrial revolution type of teaching which hasn’t changed.” He said he feels it is important the teaching of his First Nations ancestors be learned by the academy and taught within academic institutions like TRU.

Vickers said the stories he was taught growing up were filled with emotion, and emotion is how he now creates his artwork.

Vickers attempted post-secondary education in his youth, but quickly realized it wasn’t for him. He said that if you are studying fine arts, you should not be in school, and if you want to attend school you should study something else.

“Each one of us is already an artist,” Vickers said. “We are born with creativity, we are born with strength and beauty and truth inside of us.”

Vickers said that arts are important because they help us be in tune with our emotions and are a more natural way of learning. He said we must find a way of teaching that puts the arts on the highest pedestal.

“When funding is cut it is always the arts that get cut first. Well, that should be the last thing that gets cut, because that’s where we learn the most, in the most compact period of time, because the emotions are doing it.”

The most important life lesson Vickers has learned is the impact one life can have on the world. He elaborated by ad libbing a traditional Basque saying his grandmother taught him.

“You are the centre of your family, what you do and say in that family everyday makes a difference in every other member of the family. Your family is the centre of your community, and what your family does makes a difference in the community. Your community is the centre of your county, and what your community does makes a difference in the whole country. Your country is the centre of the world, what our country of Canada does makes a difference in the whole world.

“So, where did it begin? With you. You make a difference in the world. That’s the greatest lesson. My joy and my peace, that I have everyday, comes from knowing that I strive to be the best person that I can be, each day of my life.”

Vickers said that his most important message of the night was “your story is the most important story you have to share with the world. The most important things you have to learn are not going to be in this university, they are going to be in your life.”

One Response

  1. Roy Henry Vickerw Feb. 25, 2014